ICANN deploys its latest root server in Nairobi to boost internet stability, reduce impact of cyberattacks




Internet users in Africa will soon have faster access to services on the Internet and better protection from cyberattacks. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), in cooperation with its regional partners, is deploying a new ICANN Managed Root Server (IMRS) cluster in Nairobi, Kenya. ICANN is a global non-profit organization that coordinates the Domain Name System (DNS) and plays a key role in ensuring a global, interoperable, and secure Internet.

An IMRS cluster helps improve DNS infrastructure in any country, territory, or region of the world. It is key to stimulating Internet access and strengthening Internet stability. The IMRS cluster will reduce the impact of potential cyberattacks across Africa. One of the most common types of attacks, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, works by overwhelming servers with a flood of queries or Internet traffic. IMRS clusters provide higher bandwidth and data processing capacity to alleviate some of that traffic.

(TOP: From left – CA DG Ezra Chiloba, ICT PS Esther Koimett, ICT CS Eliud Owalo, ICANN CEO Göran Marby, and TESPOK CEO Fiona Asonga during the event to announce the deployment of the IMRS in Nairobi, Kenya).

“Improving users’ access to the Internet in Africa, and their safety while using it, is part of ICANN’s mission to help make the Internet more secure, stable, and resilient across the world,” said Göran Marby, ICANN President and CEO. “The installation of this new IMRS cluster would not have been possible without the participation of the local community. We are grateful to the Kenyan government for its support and commitment to advancing Internet accessibility across Africa.”

“The installation of the IMRS cluster aligns with our mission to digitally transform not only our own country but the entire continent, through regulation, partnership, and innovation. We are proud to help bring a more resilient Internet to a larger audience in Africa,” said Eliud Owalo, Kenya’s CS for Information, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Installing this IMRS cluster in Africa ensures that Internet queries can be answered within the region, which limits its dependence on networks and servers in other parts of the world. The IMRS cluster also boosts national and regional resiliency by helping root server traffic stay local.

The Domain Name System (DNS) makes navigating the Internet easier by allowing users to type in familiar letters – the domain name – instead of the IP address. For example, one only types in https://icann.org to reach out to ICANN’s website, instead of its IP address – 192.0.43.7.

A DNS root server is thus responsible for fundamental functions when it comes to translating domain names into IP addresses. In other words, it helps identify a website’s IP address when someone types a domain name into their computer.

IMRS is the acronym for “ICANN Managed Root Server”. There are 13 root server instances in the world and ICANN manages one of them, the IMRS, previously known as the L-Root. As of February 2022, there were more than 195 IMRS instances in 85 different countries (or territories).

“This project is the result of years of collaboration between the local and regional technical community, ICANN, and others. We recognize that having the IMRS cluster at the Kenya exchange point (KIXP) will improve Internet services on our continent for Internet users due to the presence of carriers from across the continent at KIXP,” said Fiona Asonga, the CEO, Technology Service Providers of Kenya 9TESPOK), a non-profit which represents interests of technology service providers in Kenya.

ICANN has been actively engaging with the African technical community since the early 2000s. It provides capacity development for many technical organizations, working closely with the African Network Operators Group and partners such as the Africa Top Level Domains Organization and African Network Information Centre.

There are five IMRS clusters in the world, two in North America, one in Europe, one in Asia, and the newest one in Africa. Three additional IMRS clusters will be installed in the next two years.

ICANN encourages qualified network operators to host IMRS instances in their country or region to serve root data.

ICANN’s mission is to help ensure a stable, secure, and unified global Internet. To reach another person on the Internet, you have to type an address – a name or a number – into your computer or other device. That address must be unique, so computers know where to find each other. ICANN helps coordinate and support these unique identifiers across the world. ICANN was formed in 1998 as a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation and a community with participants from all over the world.

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